Bergamot Essential Oil
One of the best loved and versatile of all the essential oils, bergamot has a lot more going for it than its wonderful sweet fragrance. To find out about its many benefits and what you can do with it please read on.
Bergamot essential oil comes from the fruit of the bergamot tree known scientifically as Citrus Bergamia. The fruit itself is kind of a hybrid of a lemon and sour orange and is actually the result of cross-breeding between a lemon and orange tree.
The essential oil is extracted from the fruit’s peel by a process of cold compression with only around 3 ounces of essential oil being extracted from around 100 bergamot fruit.
Bergamot was originally grown in South East Asia but was famously cultivated in the South of Italy and in fact its name derives from the Italian city of Bergamot where it was cultivated and sold. These days Bergamot is grown in many areas of the world including Argentina, Turkey, Thailand and Brazil.
Chinese practitioners traditionally used bergamot to stimulate the digestive system by enhancing the flow of energy but these days its popularity comes from its ability to deal with a very wide range of health and cosmetic issues as well as being valued for its fragrance as a common ingredient in perfumes.
Composition and Therapeutic Properties
Bergamot essential oil is characterized by high contents of:
- limonene (59%)
- linalyl acetate (16.8%)
- linalool (9.5%).
Bergamot oil composition is very different from most citrus essential oils which typically have much higher limonene levels and not much else.
Linalool and linalool acetate are major component of Lavender oil. These compounds are what gives Bergamot a wider range of benefits than a typical citrus oil.
Bergamot oil has numerous well-researched medicinal properties. It is antibacterial, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and also has sedative and analgesic actions among others.
Bergamot Essential Oil Benefits and Uses
Bergamot essential oil is an excellent addition to the family’s medicine cabinet because of its wide range of health benefits. It can help treat and heal your entire body from the skin to your insides. Its many diverse uses include the following.
1. For Hair
Bergamot oil may be beneficial for hair growth. Although I have not been able to find any human studies—there was an actual study done on mice. A 2003 Chinese study found that a bergamot extract and boxthorn significantly promoted hair growth. Again this was in mice—but this adds some credence to much of what you read on the Internet about bergamot and hair growth. (6)
Adding a few drops on bergamot to your shampoo might be beneficial to hair growth and quality.
2. For Infections
Bergamot essential oil is a popular ingredient in many skin products like soaps and lotions because of its excellent antibacterial properties. It can help inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria, fungi and other germs and can be applied topically to tackle infections of the skin and scalp.
It can also help treat internal infections like urinary tract, kidney or colon infections.
- To treat a small wound, burn or bite just apply a little diluted bergamot oil to the affected area.
3. For Depression
Bergamot essential oil is one of many essential oils that can help you to overcome feelings of depression and tackle the many symptoms associated with the illness. Symptoms of depression are far reaching and have a huge impact on your ability to cope from day to day.
As well as feelings of hopelessness, depression can cause fatigue, apathy, appetite loss and reduced sex drive. Depression is typically treated with powerful pharmaceutical medications that can have serious side effects including personality changes and weight gain.
With that in mind, bergamot essential oil may provide some natural relief.
- You can inhale bergamot directly from the bottle or from your cupped hands whenever you feel the need to raise your spirits.
- Massaging a few drops of bergamot into your neck and temples, belly and feet can also provide relief.
4. For Stress
Bergamot essential oil is considered to be a calming relaxant with powerful stress relief properties. Stress and anxiety afflicts millions of people the world over and can be incredibly debilitating.
Anybody who suffers from these conditions has doubtless tried to tackle them in many ways. While there are medications that can help in the short term, they are often addictive and come with a number of terrible potential side effects which is why people are so keen to find a safer alternative treatment.
Studies have demonstrated that bergamot essential oil can reduce those awful feelings of anxiety and stress by stimulating hormones which control mood like serotonin and dopamine. (1)
Another study published in 2011 indicated that bergamot oil blended with lavender essential oil was extremely effective in reducing both depression and anxiety in human subjects. (2)
- Inhaling bergamot essential oil from a diffuser machine throughout the day can significantly improve your mood and relieve your tension.
Please check your manufacturer’s recommendations before using bergamot oil in a diffuser as there have been reports of citrus oils damaging some diffuser machines.
5. For Pain
Studies have demonstrated that bergamot essential oil can be used as a natural and much safer alternative to pain killing medications. It can be used to relieve pain caused by headaches, spasms and muscular pain as well as helping ease the pain suffered by people with rheumatism and arthritis.
A study published in 2010 revealed that bergamot essential oil was a promising treatment for bodily tension and pain because of its neuroprotection ability. (3)
- To treat sore muscles and joints, dilute 5 or so drops of your bergamot essential oil in a suitable carrier oil and massage it into the affected area of your body.
- To relieve headaches, massage a few drops into your temples and neck or inhale it directly.
- You can also add 5 or 6 drops to your bathwater each evening to ease the pains of the day.
6. For the Skin
Do you suffer from acne, eczema or skin blemishes? If so you are certainly not alone but the good news is that bergamot essential oil can help with these and many other skin conditions.
Bergamot oil is so good for the skin because of its antibacterial, disinfectant and antiseptic properties.
It can kill bacteria before it leads to acne and blackheads while it also helps control the production of oil in the skin. As an added bonus, it can also be used to diminish the appearance of acne scars as well as other small scars and stretch marks. It is effective for scarring because it helps regulate the skin’s supply of melanin.
As well as acne, many people use bergamot oil to treat other common skin complaints like eczema and psoriasis. It is also a powerful antifungal oil that can effectively destroy many strains of fungus including the fungus that causes nail fungus.
- To treat your skin, add a few drops of bergamot to a damp cotton ball and apply it directly to the affected area each day.
Bergamot essential oil may increase photosensitivity so you should avoid exposure to direct sunlight for at least 24 hours after applying it to your skin.
7. For Digestion
Bergamot oil is commonly used to improve digestive function. It helps to stimulate digestive juices which improves the body’s ability to break down its food and ease its passage through the digestive tract. It also helps by stimulating muscular contractions of the intestinal walls which improves the movement of waste through the intestines.
There is even some evidence that bergamot essential oil may help fight food poisoning owing to its very strong antibacterial properties. (4)
- To treat any digestive complaint that you may have, rub 4 or 5 drops of your oil into your belly once each day.
8. For Fevers
You may be able to use bergamot essential oil to help relieve fevers caused by bacterial illnesses. Bergamot can fight internal and external bacterium and also reduce high body temperature by relieving stress and by stimulating the secretion of hormones.
- If you are suffering from a fever, try diffusing bergamot essential oil through the day and near your bed at night.
9. For oral health
Having recently gone through some horrendous tooth and gum issues and being incredibly fearful of dentists, any alternative treatment immediately gets my interest. Bergamot essential oil is one of several essential oils that can be used to relieve toothache and gum disease.
You can add a few drops of bergamot oil to a glass of water to make a mouthwash or gargle preparation or ad a few drops to your toothpaste and brush as normal.
10. For Congestion
Bergamot essential oil is an excellent option for dealing with congestion and other respiratory problems that may result from the flu or common cold. It works by loosening the phlegm and the build-up of mucus in your respiratory tract and also helps eliminate germs and other harmful toxins from the body.
- To treat your congestion and respiratory difficulties, you can inhale the vapors from a diffuser machine throughout the night and day.
- Alternatively, you can inhale it directly from your cupped hands whenever you feel the need. If you are at home and have a little more time on your hands, the most effective way to treat congestion is by making your own steam treatment.
- Add a few drops of bergamot essential oil to a sink full of steaming hot water, cover your upper body with a towel, lean over the sink and breathe in the vapors for as long as you can manage it.
11. As a Deodorant
Bergamot not only has a delightful, citrus aroma but it also has the ability to kill of the germs that may cause unpleasant body odors. It can also be diffused around the home to eliminate unwanted smells from cooking or tobacco.
- To treat body odor, you could add your bergamot oil to a bath or simply apply a few drops to your underarms and feet.
12. Insect Repellent
Bergamot essential oil is a very effective natural repellent that will help keep unwanted bugs and pests at bay. It can help deter mosquitoes from entering the home and can also be used to deal with other unwanted guests like ants and silverfish.
- Add 5 or 6 drops to a water spray bottle and give the little blighters what they deserve.
How to use it
Depending on the condition that you are treating, bergamot essential oil can be used in several different ways. Some of the most common uses include the following:
- Inhalation: either from the bottle or from a diffuser.
- Aromatic bath: add a few drops to your bath and let the goodness soak into your body.
- Topical application: for skin conditions like acne or to treat scarring.
- Massage: to treat muscular and joint pain, dilute your bergamot oil with a suitable carrier oil like jojoba or coconut oil.
- Mouthwash: add a few drops to a glass of water.
Bergamot essential oil blends very well with all of the other citrus oils and also blends well with sandalwood, clary sage, lavender, ylang-ylang and frankincense among others.
Bergamot Oil in Tea
Bergamot Oil is the secret ingredient in Earl Grey tea. It gives earl grey its distinctive flavor.
So the question often asked is “can bergamot oil be ingested?” As a general rule we don’t recommend ingesting any essential oils. Not because we think it is always bad or dangerous—it is just very difficult to get good information and research.
First—you can get many benefits via aromatherapy and via your skin. The second reason is that since many oils are antibacterial and anti-fungal—they can alter your gut bacteria. If you are sick and needing to kill certain bacteria—they could help.
But oils can also kill good bacteria as well. Studies have shown oils to have negative effects on bifido bacteria (generally these are all beneficial). Clove, Cinnamon and basil have been tested and it was found that they did inhibit beneficial bacterium. But not enough research has been done to know which oils affect what gut flora.
If you do ingest it is strongly advised to follow up with probiotics. Dr. Scott Johnson recommends supplementing with probiotics 4 hours after ingesting essential oils.
The other issue is that some oils are more toxic internally or have potentially toxic compounds. Wintergreen has methyl salicylate which is similar to aspirin. As you know aspirin can be toxic for children. Oils with camphor and 1,8 cineole (Eucalyptus and Camphor) can be toxic in even small doses.
Peppermint and many citrus oils like lemon, orange and yes Bergamot are used in foods and recipes. The key to safely ingesting these oils is mixing with an oil or something else to dilute it. In the case of bergamot—honey is a good option if you are mixing into a tea. Put a drop of bergamot into a tsp on honey-add to tea.
So while we don’t really recommend it—in the case of bergamot it should be relatively safe. Essential Oil safety expert and author Robbert Tissarand has investigated the toxic dose and for Bergamot. He found there was not a known toxic dose—and the rat testing done (which was still not quite toxic levels) was ridiculously high. (5)
Side Effects and Precautions
While bergamot essential oil is generally considered safe for topical use, there are a few caveats.
- As with other citrus essential oils, bergamot may increase your skin’s sensitivity to direct sunlight. This may result in an increased risk of sunburn, blistering and rashes. You are advised to avoid exposure to direct sunlight for at least 24 hours after applying the oil.
- There have been several reports of sensitivity to bergamot essential oil and you should perform a patch test before applying it to the skin for the first time.
- Always dilute your essential oils with a carrier oil before applying them topically.
- Bergamot essential oil may not be safe for pregnant or breast feeding women.
- Bergamot essential oil may reduce blood sugar level in diabetics.
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